Showing posts with label working from home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label working from home. Show all posts

Monday, 5 November 2012

The BBC's Nick Robinson - and the perils of working from home

BBC political editor Nick Robinson is a brilliant reporter. He always looks cool, calm and unflustered – even when he’s got scary deadlines to meet and major political stories to cover. He’s also got that rare journalistic knack of making the most complicated issues clear and intelligible. He’s particularly good on Radio Four’s Today programme, where he often pops up to detangle the political complexities of the day.

Yesterday Robinson was featured on The Sunday Times Magazine’s long-running A Life in the Day page. It was fascinating stuff (he said most politicians are “decent people doing an honourable job,” declared he'll never do Strictly Come Dancing and revealed that when he’s working he lives on crisps and chocolate). There was also one recollection that will strike a chord with all parents who work from home.

Although Robinson is based at London’s Millbank, he explained that he sometimes does interviews from his basement office at home.

“Once, when the kids were small and my wife was away, I had an important radio interview to do – about the Northern Ireland peace process – and I told the kids they needed to be quiet,” he said.

“But the minute the interview began they started shouting that a door handle had fallen off and they were locked in a room.”

So what did he do?

“Like any man faced with a choice between family and career, I ploughed on with the interview…”  

And I’m sure the listeners had no idea about the drama going on around him. What a pro.   

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Working from home, Brora and memories of Lancashire

Sitting in my study watching the Oxford traffic trundle past my window (above), I yearn to work in a sleek sky-scraper, with a state-of-the-art coffee machine, decent photocopier and the buzz of working alongside other people. There are lots of brilliant things about working from home – no commuting, no boss breathing down my neck and, until my children turned into ultra-independent teenagers, no last-minute panics when they were off school.

But I hate the solitude, the people who assume that just because you’re at home you’re lolling around doing nothing all day and in the winter months, the cold. Even though it’s only September, I’ve been so freezing this week that I’ve already started wearing my cosy Brora fingerless gloves in my office every day.

Even so, it’s nothing compared to the three years we spent living in a draughty farmhouse in the wilds of Lancashire. Our north-facing house was perched on the side of a hill and all we could see were fields and sheep. It was stunning but even in summer the temperature was always a few degrees lower than anywhere else. I frequently set off to collect my daughter from school wrapped in a thick coat and scarf to find everyone else basking in bright sunshine. The gales that whistled round the side of the house sounded like someone was being murdered and had to be heard to be believed. The sheep had to be stark, raving desperate to venture as far as the field next to us.

The house, which we rented from an aristocratic landowner, didn’t have any central heating at all so we had to light open fires all year round. We got through so much coal that Mr Wilkinson, the tough, no-nonsense driver who battled the wind, rain and snow to deliver our fuel, declared we were his very best customers. When I rang one Christmas to order yet more coal, I asked his wife how much we’d need to see us through until the New Year. “Tell her a wagon-load,” chuckled Mr Wilkinson from the background.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The press pack

Working from home is a double-edged sword. I can start work when I want, wear what I please, chat to my son when he gets in from school and fix coffee with friends without a clock-watching news editor yelling at me for being late back.

All good, but I still hanker after office life – the gossip, the banter, the buzz. The best place I ever worked was the Evening Standard, where I spent five years as a hard news reporter. London’s evening paper was based in Fleet Street back then and it was a different world – a world dominated by clattering typewriters, larger than life characters and eye-wateringly tight deadlines.

The vast newsroom was so noisy that we had to yell at top volume to make ourselves heard above the din. My friend Diane used to sit underneath her desk to do phone interviews because it was the only place she could get a bit of peace and quiet.

Few of us had mobile phones so when we were sent out of the office on a job we had to find a phone box (tricky in the middle of Saddleworth Moor) and dictate our stories straight from our notebooks to the army of copy-takers. “Is there much more of this?” they’d ask crushingly while we were in full, creative flow.

Best of all was the fantastic team of reporters. I’ve never worked with better. Newsmen like the late great John McLeod could calmly turn out the most exquisitely-written copy in ten minutes flat before the first edition deadline at 9.30am. Despite the early starts, John, who made his name covering the Great Train Robbery of 1963, was definitely a night owl. He lived and breathed newspapers and could often be found catching forty winks in the office in the early hours of the morning. His shorthand was immaculate, his knowledge of court reporting second to none and yet he was the most generous man, always happy to help out the younger, less experienced journalists in the press pack.

The move to swanky riverside offices and the advent of new technology transformed newspapers beyond all recognition. But do you know, I wouldn’t have missed Fleet Street for anything.
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